About Us

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Our Mission

The Institute for Human Centered Design (IHCD), founded in Boston in 1978 as Adaptive Environments, is an international non-governmental educational organization (NGO) committed to advancing the role of design in expanding opportunity and enhancing experience for people of all ages and abilities through excellence in design. IHCD’s work balances expertise in legally required accessibility with promotion of best practices in human-centered or universal design.

IHCD has been the lead organization in the international Universal Design movement, having hosted or co-hosted five international conferences (New York -1998, Providence -2000, Yokahama – 2002, Rio de Janeiro – 2004, Kyoto – October 2006) as well as international student design competitions, smaller regional meetings and publication of web and print materials. We are currently exploring an international event that would offer nations in the Middle East multi-disciplinary consultation for post-conflict reconstruction from a Universal Design perspective. We are working with the UN on the implementation of the new Treaty on the Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities that endorses Universal Design as the basis for design guidelines.

Due to the extensive international network of individual and organizational collaborators, IHCD has an unusually rich and flexible expertise and a capacity well beyond its core staff of twenty designers, educators and humanists.  IHCD knows the state-of-the-art of Universal Design in the spectrum of design disciplines from urban design, landscape and architecture to interior design, industrial design, media and information design and can call upon the ideal match of expertise and use it efficiently.

We have a formal collaborative relationship with the International Association for Universal Design in Japan, with the Design-for-All Foundation in the European Union and UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.  Our international network includes colleagues on every continent.

Our new location, blocks from City Hall and the State House at 200 Portland Street, is centered in one of the most accessible public transit sites in Boston. We have joined our internal capacity and extraordinary national and international relationships into a resource in Boston that is unique in the nation.

Our Core Beliefs

  • Design is powerful and profoundly influences our daily lives and our sense of confidence, comfort, and control.
  • Variation in human ability is ordinary, not special, and affects most of us for some part of our lives.

The work of the Institute for Human Centered Design is supported in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

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